|02/09/2015||70 minute flight with
RyanAir for £78 return!
|03/09/2015||Medieval town &
|3||St. Savin &
|04/09/2015||UNESCO Frescoed Abbey &
Train into Poitiers!
|05/09/2015||Riverside town & Chateau!|
|06/09/2015||Vineyard tour & Chateau!|
|6||Gates of Hell &
|07/09/2015||Rural & Urban!|
Oradour / Glane
|08/09/2015||Granite Massif Central|
|09/09/2015||Churches & Sights|
|9||BoMo||10/09/2015||Home by noon!|
I drove over to Harlow via Hatfield on the first of September. That evening I took my brother David and sister-in-law Pam out for dinner at the Fox & Goose on the A414 halfway to Chelmsford. The next morning, my 62nd birthday, Pam drove me to nearby Stansted airport. I then caught the 70 minute flight with RyanAir to Poitiers in France for only £78 return! My host Mark Urwin met me at the small airport there and drove me back to his holiday home in Montmorillon. We walked through the writer's quarter where he lives, over the medieval bridge to the new quarter. Here we had a drink with Laurie the estate agent and his friend at the Wooden Bridge (Pont de Bois) café. Back at his three storey, three bedroom period town house, Mark rustled up a poached salmon salad.
On my first full day in France, Mark drove me in his Peugeot 103 north to the medieval hilltop town of Chauvigny (*). We explored the narrow, cobbled streets and saw the three castles (Michelin B, D & E) and one church (*). On the way down, we walked through the public garden to the new(er) town below. We had the menu of the day - salad, pork and apple tart - at the Angelic restaurant. We drove out to the little village of Bonnes, before riding the railway quadbikes (Vélo rail) back in Chauvigny. You will remember the little rail cars with hand pumps seen in old black and white western films, but these had two sets of bicycle pedals instead. We set off slightly up hill and over the two impressive viaducts. After 8 kilometres we came to the Heath Robinson turn around device at the picnic site. Both going up and coming back down we were slowed down by other quadbikes in front of us. It was a certainly a unique experience! That evening we dined on home-made lentil soup.
The next day we went north again to St. Savin (**). We went in the disappointing museum (*), before seeing the UNESCO listed frescoes (***) in the Abbey church itself (**). These include scenes from Genesis & Exodus similar to, but much older than, those in the Sistine chapel. However the height of the nave made them difficult to see, except for the one of Abraham and the King removed to the museum. Back at home we lunched on lentil soup and prawn salad with bulgar wheat. In the afternoon we caught the train into Poitiers for 21 euros return each. Here we attended a barbeque organised for Mark's French walking group by Sylvain & Henri. This began with hors d'oeuvres which included bison salami sausages! Course after course followed, including Creuse-style potato pie, Mexican-style pork fillets and horse (!) sausages from the BBQ. We were given the delicious pear dessert before the rest of the party, as we had to leave just before 10 pm to catch the last train back to Montmorillon. Unfortunately we missed out on the inevitable cheese course, but did have plenty of wine!
On the next morning I explored Montmorillon, photographing St. Lawrence's chapel, the medieval Octagon (B) & Warming Room (D) and the Notre Dame church. Unfortuantely the first two and the famous St. Catherine's crypt in the latter were all locked. The two museums are now permanently closed (A & M). We lunched on prawn salad, before driving north again to visit the impressive Chateau Touffou (*), still owned by the family of David Ogilvy the so-called father of advertising. We saw King Francois the First of France's bedroom and various other rooms in the medieval parts, but nothing in the renaissance building itself, still occupied by the Ogilvy family. Back in Montmorillon we dined on delicious Breton galettes in the local Creperie.
We got up at 6 am to drive the 100 miles north to the Loire Valley. We met up with the members of Mark's walking group at Civray de Touraine for a tour of the local vineyard. We had two stops at marquees in the fields to sample the wine. We then had a picnic lunch of pitta rolls and cake, before exploring the famous Chenonceau chateau (***), built on top of the Cher (not Loire) river. Finally back in Montmorillon, we dined on smoked salmon salad.
On the Monday we saw the impressive chateau at Bourg-Archambault, before walking along the dramatic gorge of the Gartemps river to the famous granite Gates of Hell (Portes d'Enfer *). On the way back we stopped off at John & Carol's Gite for tea, before lunching on salmon and prawn salad. After a lie down, we drove into Poitiers to meet Mark's friend Martin for dinner. I had the rump steak, Mark had the grilled tuna salad and the other Martin had fish and chips.
On my final full day in France, we drove south again to Le Dorat (*) where we stopped off at the Café de la Poste. We visited the famous granite collegiate church (**), but one of my soles came adrift so we had to visit a supermarket to buy some glue. We explored Bellac, before having the set lunch of quiche, turkey and brownies in the Central Hotel. In the afternoon we walked around the delightful granite village of Mortemart, before reaching Oradour-sur-Glane the derelict village site of a Nazi atrocity four days after D-Day. We climbed to the top of the Monts de Blond hills (*), but the view north was partly blocked by the trees. Back in Montmorillon we had an aperitif in the local Belgian bar, before we had a lovely prawn salad for one last time.
On my final half day in France, we drove into the southern suburbs of Poitiers and walked into the city (**) from the water tower along an abandoned tramway. We visited six romanesque churches (**) and the gothic cathderal (*) where Eleanor of Aquitaine married King Henry the Second of England. We were unable to visit Eleanor's famous palace (*) in the centre of the city, since it still functions as the law courts. We missed out the famous Visigothic baptistery (*), but did see the small statue of liberty, the river-side mill and the botanic garden. We lunched at the same restaurant as before and I had the rump steak again with Mark opting for the fish and chips. We caught the local bus number 3 back to the car and Mark then drove me to the airport. The RyanAir jet took just 67 minutes to fly me back to Stansted. I was met by my brother and sister-in-law, the latter of whom cooked me my belated birthday dinner. On the next morning I got home by noon, despite heavy traffic on the M25 and M3. I had had a wonderful time with glorious weather every day!